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Japan Finds 9th U.S. Corn Cargo Tainted With Bt-10

August 23, 2005

TOKYO, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Japan's Agriculture Ministry said it discovered a ninth U.S. feed grain cargo tainted with Bt-10 biotech corn, and has told the importer to destroy it or ship it back to the United States.

The tainted cargo arrived on Aug. 1 at the port of Shibushi on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, the ministry said in a statement issued late Monday. Samples containing Bt-10 were taken from 5,963 tonnes of corn in the vessel.

The ministry did not name the importer.

Samples from the U.S. feed corn cargo tested positive for traces of Bt-10, a genetically modified (GMO) corn strain made by Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta AG that has not been approved for distribution.

Syngenta said in March that some of its corn seeds in the United States had been mistakenly contaminated with Bt-10 from 2001 to 2004.

It was the ninth discovery since the ministry started random tests on arriving U.S. feed corn cargoes on May 23.

Japan has a zero-tolerance policy on imports of unapproved GMO crops. The ministry has proposed accepting feed grain cargoes with up to 1 percent of Bt-10 corn, to smooth the flow of U.S. corn supplies to Japan's livestock industry. But the plan is subject to approval by Japan's Food Safety Commission, an independent agency.

More contaminated cargoes will likely be found, as the ministry has stepped up its tests to cover all U.S. corn cargoes.

The chances of finding contaminated cargoes are expected to become slimmer when newly harvested U.S. corn starts to reach Japan around November, a ministry official said.

To ensure tainted supplies are not shipped to Japan, the ministry has told importers of U.S. corn they must obtain certificates stating the cargoes do not contain Bt-10.

Some U.S. grain shippers have started testing their corn shipments to Japan, in response to requests from Japanese importers. But others are reluctant to do so because of high costs and extra work to arrange tests, traders said.

feed corn


Monsanto to Bitter Greens: "Cease" and Desist

August 30, 2005

Yesterday the farming project I work for, Maverick Farms, received the following extraordinary e-mail. I don't have time to respond now, as we're scrambling to put on our monthly farm dinner. Given Monsanto's record of suing farmers, I suppose I should stifle guffaws and take it seriously. For now, though, I'll delight in having tweaked a transnational corporation valued in the marketplace at a cool $17 billion. Here's the letter. I will respond when I get a chance. (Readers should also note that I'm putting the finishing touches on a post about the current oil crunch.)

Dear Mr. Philpott,

I am the trademark and copyright attorney for Monsanto Company, the owner of the Roundup Ready(R) trademark. The attached link is to the Bitter Greens Journal which features the name "Roundup, ready" as the title of one of its features. Roundup Ready(R) is a well known trademark which is registered by Monsanto not only in the United States, but in many countries throughout the word [sic]. As you have pointed out in the column, Roundup Ready(R) is famous in the agricultural industry.

While you have stated in your column that you chose the name "Roundup, ready" in honor of Monsanto's famed line of seeds, we must object to this use and request that you change the name for the following reasons:

1) You are using our trademark without our consent. This use of the term could cause your readers to think that your journal is in some way sponsored by Monsanto or that Monsanto supports the positions set out in your journal.

2) You are using our trademark in an incorrect manner (with a comma and in a way that genericizes the mark). This weakens our trademark rights.

I would appreciate your confirmation that you will change the name of this column and cease using "Roundup, ready" or any form of our trademark as the name of a feature or in an incorrect manner in your journal. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Very truly yours,

Barb Bunning-Stevens
Assistant General Counsel - Trademarks


Bitter Greens Blog Responds to Monsanto

Monday, August 29, 2005

As I reported Friday, Monsanto contacted me to "request" that I cease using the headline "Roundup, ready," a title I use for an occasional feature that rounds up food-politics news. Here is my response:

Dear Ms. Bunning-Stevens,

Although it's comical for a corporation with upwards of $5 billion in annual revenue to harass an obscure blogger who helps run a 2.5-acre farm, the tone of your letter is earnest; so I will reply earnestly.

Your arguments seem specious to me, and I therefore I must refuse to cease using "Roundup, ready" as the title for an occasional feature on my Web log.

You write that "[t]his use of the term could cause your readers to think that your journal is in some way sponsored by Monsanto or that Monsanto supports the positions set out in your journal." Yet my journal clearly presents itself as a "running critique of industrial agriculture," and from its first post on has made no secret of its distaste for Monsanto and its particular style of industrial agriculture.

I doubt you will be able to dig up a single reader who, after perusing a "Roundup, ready" post, will think to himself, "Now this fellow must be on the Monsanto dole!"

To further clarify my position on Monsanto, and to underline my institutional, financial, and ideological independence from it, I'm considering placing a new feature along the left-hand side of my blog. Titled "Bitter Greens on Monsanto," it would be a compilation of clickable headlines to the 15 or so posts that have mentioned your company. Would that go some way toward distancing our two entities?

Nor am I persuaded by the claim that my use of a comma in "Roundup, ready" somehow "weakens [Monsanto's] trademark rights." If I were in the business of genetically altering seeds so that they could withstand copious applications of herbicides, and I were marketing my product under the brand "Roundup, ready," cheekily trying to leverage Monsanto's marketing might and hoping the comma would protect me from copyright troubles, I would certainly tremble in fear on being contacted by a Monsanto attorney. And I would immediately cease and desist that dubious practice.

However, I am selling nothing. I am a polemicist employing (in the case of "Roundup, ready") satire to advance the cause of locally based, organic agriculture. If I'm able with my writing to stop a farmer from buying your product, then it will be due to the force of my arguments, not to any confusion regarding your trademark.

With all due respect, it seems to me that rather than protect your trademark from any serious threat, what you're really trying to do is intimidate a political opponent into ceasing what is surely Constitutionally protected speech. And so, as I stated above, I must decline your request. And I will redouble my efforts to study and write about the practices of your company.

Tom Philpott


New Study Says Costs of Roundup Ready Wheat Are Greater Than Benefits

CONTACT: Dr. Charles Benbrook, Dena Hoff, Todd Leake, Kevin Dowling, WORC staff
WORC August 30, 2005

Industry Could Lose Up To $272 Million

(FARGO, N.D.) - Introduction of genetically modified wheat would lower income for wheat growers and the wheat industry, according to a report released today.

Published by WORC (Western Organization of Resource Councils), Harvest at Risk - Impacts of Roundup Ready Wheat in the Northern Great Plains examines the likely consequences of Roundup Ready wheat adoption and projects economic impacts on wheat growers and the wheat industry.

"This is a technology for which there is really no compelling need," said Dr. Charles Benbrook, author of the study. "Existing weed management systems are stable, the price of weed management is not increasing, and farmers are managing resistance to currently used herbicides."

If Roundup Ready wheat is introduced, increased seed and herbicide costs and reduced wheat prices would outweigh the operating cost savings from Roundup Ready wheat’s simplified weed management by as much as $37 per acre, the report concludes. Farmers who do not plant Roundup Ready wheat would also face increased costs and lower income, ranging from $5.60 to $18 per acre.

"Overall, the wheat industry could lose $94 million to $272 million," Benbrook said.

Benbrook said the wheat industry needs an in-depth and independent study of the factors and impacts of GM wheat so that the technology does not reduce farm income in the long run.

"I don’t see any advantage to the farmer in the introduction of Roundup Ready wheat," said Todd Leake, a North Dakota wheat grower and spokesperson for the Dakota Resource Council.

The report projects costs per bushel and per acre for farmers adopting Roundup Ready wheat and for non-adopters under a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. In either case, farmers would lose money from introduction and use of Roundup Ready wheat.

The report finds mostly negative affects from nine factors affecting the costs and benefits of growing Roundup Ready wheat: emergence of resistance, gene flow, disease pressure and related problems, impacts on seed plus herbicide expenditures, market rejection, dockage, yields, grain quality, and wheat prices.

Harvest at Risk is the latest WORC report analyzing the probable effects of commercial introduction of Roundup Ready, genetically modified wheat. An earlier report by WORC found that introduction of genetically modified wheat in the U.S. risks the loss of one-fourth to one-half of U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat export markets and up to a one-third drop in price.

WORC commissioned the study to answer questions about gene flow and contamination, weed resistance, disease problems and cost and returns, said Dena Hoff, WORC Chair, farmer, and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

"There are other unanswered questions about the impacts on soil and water and human and animal health that should be studied," Hoff said. "We’re going to have to work together so that we don’t put our harvest at risk."

Monsanto indefinitely postponed development of Roundup Ready wheat in May 2004.

Dr. Benbrook runs Benbrook Consultant Services, based in Sandpoint, Idaho. He has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University. He has served on the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, in staff positions in Congress, and as Executive Director of the National Academy of Science Board on Agriculture.

WORC is a regional network representing farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The Dakota Resource Council and Northern Plains Resource Council are members of WORC. Harvest at Risk and related material are available at


Organic Farmers Granted Leave to Appeal Class Certification Decision

Saskatoon, Sask. CANADA
August 30, 2005

Today the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal released Honourable Mr. Justice Cameron's decision granting the certified organic farmers of Saskatchewan leave to appeal the Court of Queen's Bench decision dated May 11, 2005 denying them class certification under Saskatchewan's Class Actions Act. The farmers are seeking compensation for losses due to contamination of organic fields and crops by Monsanto's and Bayer's genetically engineered canolas.

Judge Cameron agreed that the issues raised by the plaintiffs should be dealt with by the Appeal Court. He agreed that the questions of whether Judge Smith erred in her finding of no cause of action - an error which cascades through her decisions on the remaining four tests required to grant class certification - and whether she applied an overly rigorous standard for class certifications should be examined by the Appeal Court.

Justice Cameron stated, " I am satisfied the proposed appeal raises some comparatively new and potentially controversial points of law, that it transcends the particular in its implications, and that it is of sufficient importance to the practice pertaining to this subject to warrant attention by this Court.

Plaintiff Larry Hoffman says he feels encouraged by the decision. "It gives us a chance to argue how the Class Actions Act should be applied. The spirit of the law is to even out the odds between the Davids and the Goliaths in the world. The lower court decision made it too hard on us Davids, and we think that's unfair. A farmer like me can't afford to take on a big company like Monsanto when it threatens my livelihood and way of life. But if we can join together in a class action, our combined strength can make it possible to hold these companies accountable for their actions.

"This is great , says plaintiff Dale Beaudoin. "On behalf of 1000 plus organic farmers we can continue to fight for our right to remain stewards for sustainable agriculture. This is no minor issue. It is a matter of independence and survival for all farmers world-wide.

For the decision and other details of the class action suit, please see


Government Stops Research on Maize

SUNDAY NATION Reporter (Kenya)
August 26, 2005

The Government has terminated the Genetically Modified (GM) maize experiments recently launched by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and an American firm, Sygenta, and ordered the crop destroyed.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(Kephis) will supervise the destruction.

The the first ever field experiments on GM maize in the country, was started in May at a Kari field station in Kiboko, Machakos. They were initially hailed as a major break-through in resolving the challenges stem borer pests present to farmers.

At the same time, local bio-technology researchers have been cautioned against succumbing to pressure from international organisations at the expense of standards and safety.

The newly appointed Agriculture secretary, Dr Wilson Songa, said there was a tendency by local scientists to yield to pressure and sidestep existing regulations in spite of the absence of any legal framework to mitigate possible negative consequences.

"The fact that we don't have an enabling legal framework to fall back on should anything nasty happen, should be reason enough for us to be extra vigilant in biosafety. Unfortunately, there is an emerging tendency by our scientists yielding to pressure from international collaborators pushing to secure approvals for their research projects faster, sidestepping procedures" Dr Songa said.

Dr Songa, who is the chairman of the National Biosafety Committee of the National Council of Science and Technology, was commenting on last month's termination of the stem-borer resistant maize experiments.

He cited failure by the transformed maize (Bt maize) researchers to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the biosafety glass house where the maize seeds were grown. The planting of the seeds in the glass house at the National Agricultural Laboratories in Kabete was launched by President Kibaki in May last year.

"We don't have a baseline data on the impact of the maize on non-target plants and insects. This was a major omission as supervisors in the field have nothing to rely on. They shouldn't have gone to the field without some baseline study on the environment. Our scientists should be lobbying for the pending Biosafety Bill to be fast tracked into law. Instead, they are rushing projects in the field that can have serious consequences in case something went wrong, while we have no framework for redress," Dr Songa said.

The Kiboko experiments were terminated after a technician sprayed the trial maize crop with a restricted chemical, Furadan, and which also acts on stem borers which meant it could no longer be possible to tell if it was the Bt maize or the chemical that would influence results being examined.

The Kari director, Dr Romano Kiome, could not be reached for comment by Friday but was expected back in the office next week.


Caribbean Officials to Hold Talks on Genetically Modified Food Imports

Associated Press
August 29, 2005

Caribbean officials will meet in Belize this week to discuss ways of regulating genetically modified food imports to the region amid concerns over safety, an official said Monday.

The three-day meeting of agriculture officials and experts from the 15-member Caribbean Community begins Wednesday in Belize City, said Selwyn King, spokesman for the Trinidad-based Caribbean Agricultural Development Institute, an affiliate of the regional bloc.

Officials will try to develop policies regarding genetically modified food products that are increasingly appearing in grocery stores across the Caribbean, King said. The meeting will include talks on how to monitor the safety of genetically modified foods and regulate their import, King said.

The talks come weeks after Grenada expressed concern about the safety of genetically modified foods and set up a body to develop safety standards.

Officials also will explore ways to reduce the region's annual food import bill of more than US$3 billion and boost the competitiveness of Caribbean agriculture, King said.


Aqua-Bounty's New Immune Booster for Shrimp Shows Need for Regulatory Certainty in U.S. for Biotech

By Ross Kerber
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News (via news)
August 29, 2005

It can take genetically engineered products, such as Monsanto Co.'s altered corn, years to reach the market. Waltham-based Aqua Bounty's feed additive for shrimp is being used in Mexico, out of the FDA's jurisdiction.

Sports trainers use weights to bulk up their athletes. Shrimp farmers turn to Elliot Entis.

The chief executive of Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc. this year expects to sell $ 1 million worth of the company's first commercial product, a protein-based feed additive that boosts the immune systems of farm-raised shrimp, in Mexico.

Waltham-based Aqua Bounty is better known for its efforts to develop fast-growing, genetically modified salmon for human consumption, a $ 12 million effort that has been pending before the Food and Drug Administration for years.

The feed additive also is genetically engineered, produced by specially modified bacteria. But Entis said it did not need FDA approval. Because the substance is no longer in the shrimp by the time they are exported to the United States, the agency does not treat it as a food. Also, because the shrimp are raised in Mexico they are outside the FDA's jurisdiction, said Entis and government officials.

Aqua Bounty's experience shows the difficulties faced by agricultural biotechnology companies in bringing all but niche products to market under current regulations. But Entis, who is the leader of an industry group, also says that the situation his company faces illustrates the need for the FDA to spell out more clearly what data are needed to approve products developed with genetic techniques.

It can take such products years to reach the market. In addition to Aqua Bounty's salmon, examples include Monsanto Co.'s genetically engineered corn and soybeans, which now dominate US fields. Those products underwent extensive reviews in the 1990s by the FDA, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. In Austin, Texas, ViaGen Inc. has agreed not to sell its cloned cattle to food companies while waiting for the FDA to evaluate the safety of the beef and milk the animals produce.

Currently, 'you make your best guess about what kind of research you need to do,' said Sara Davis, ViaGen vice president who, like Entis, is active in the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a Washington trade group.

William Muir, a genetics professor at Purdue University who follows the industry, said companies want limits on how long FDA reviews can last because lengthy delays can scare off investors.

To some extent, the industry's concerns mirror those of food-safety activists who charge that the FDA isn't keeping close track of biotechnology products. Their prime example is the GloFish, a genetically modified zebra fish meant for decorative fish tanks that is produced by Yorktown Technologies LP of Austin, Texas. The FDA allowed it to go on sale at the end of 2003 without a safety review, saying it posed no risk to public health.

An FDA spokeswoman said it is studying the biotech industry's proposals for clearer data submissions as part of an inter-agency task force with the White House and the Department of Agriculture. The Agriculture Department's biotechnology director, John Turner, said he expects rules by next year that will clarify which agencies have authority to oversee genetically engineered animals. Oversight of feed products likely will remain with the FDA, he said.

Advocacy groups still want more safety studies for modified foods and feeds. They cite a 2004 National Academy of Engineering report on genetically engineered foods that said 'altered foods should be assessed on a case-by-case basis before they are sold to the public' and monitored after they are placed on the market.

Technically, Aqua Bounty's shrimp feed additive is not sold to the public. Known as Shrimp IMS, for 'immune supplement,' it is a powder added to regular shrimp meal, which is composed of ground grain and fish. On an averaged-sized tropical shrimp farm of 2,500 acres, 3,000 tons of shrimp might consume 6,000 tons of ground plant feed during the three months they are grown. During that time the farm might mix 66 pounds of the additive into the plant feed.

The additive comes to market at a difficult time for many farmers. Shrimp imports to the United States grew to 1.1 billion pounds in 2004 from about 600 million pounds in 1996, according the trade website But prices per pound are declining and the new technique of raising shrimp in ponds has generated criticism from environmentalists.

Entis wouldn't discuss many details of how Shrimp IMS is made, calling the process proprietary, but he described the powder as a protein produced by e. coli bacteria whose makeup has been altered in a manner that has been acceptable to the FDA.

Mexican authorities cleared the additive after six months of study last year, said Antonio Pedroza, chief executive of MaltaCleyton, the Mexican firm that resells the Aqua Bounty product.

'At the beginning it was hard, because everybody is afraid of labels like GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and genetically modified foods,' Pedroza said. But now farmers report the additive keeps more shrimp larvae alive and increases shrimp yields up to 8 percent, he said.

Aqua Bounty has similar ambitions for its proposed Atlantic salmon. But the process for the additive is simpler than the one the firm uses for its salmon, which it is already breeding at a Prince Edward Island hatchery. The company refers to the fish as a 'transgenic' creature because one of its genes has been altered so that it produces growth hormone more steadily through the year.

They can grow to commercial size, 10 pounds, in about half the three years it takes to grow salmon in a farmed environment.

Entis first contacted the FDA about the salmon in 1995, started tests in 2000, and hopes it might be approved by next year.

Aqua Bounty also is working on an antiviral drug for shrimp.

'We're among a number of companies that have products in the pipeline that are more near-term than people know,' Entis said.

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Genetically engineered food is corporate bioterrorism